Following almost a decade of futility and terrible basketball, the last few years have presented the New York Knicks with an opportunity to get their act together and regain their place amongst the great teams in the NBA.
After signing Amar'e Stoudemire in free agency seven months earlier, the Knicks decided that a second superstar was needed to seal the deal and acquired elite scorer Carmelo Anthony in a trade that will forever be remembered in franchise history.
In exchange for Melo, Chauncey Billups and three bench players, the Knicks sent away a package of Danilo Gallinari, Wilson Chandler, Raymond Felton, Timofey Mozgov and three draft picks (includng a 2014 first-rounder).
Though owner James Dolan thought it was the right move at the time, many fans still question to this day whether the Knicks should have given up so much for essentially just one player.
At the time of the trade, Stoudemire and his young supporting cast were looking impressive, sitting sixth in the Eastern Conference and meshing well under head coach Mike D'Antoni.
Since the trade, though, things haven't really advanced the way Dolan must have envisioned. The Knicks failed to get past the sixth seed in the remainder of that 2010-11 season and dropped to seventh in the 2011-12 season, with both seasons being capped off by first-round exits in the playoffs.
Injuries and such have caused some problems in the 17 months the Knicks have had Melo, but you can't help but wonder what could have been if they had just gone with what was working for them before the trade.
It's impossible to say for sure, but it's certainly an idea worth exploring.
For starters, the fate of Coach D'Antoni would have been a lot different. In Raymond Felton, D'Antoni had a point guard perfectly suited to his system, and as a result, it flourished.
Melo was never a good fit for D'Antoni's "seven seconds or less" offense, and the two were far from a match made in heaven.
Since acquiring Anthony, D'Antoni's reputation has gone way down hill. But it was hard for his system to be implemented without a true point guard and with the team being built around a player more suited to isolation basketball.
Along with D'Antoni, its likely that Donnie Walsh—the man who orchestrated the Knicks' revival—would have stayed in his role as President of Basketball Operations, as it appears he may not have been completely on board with the pursuit of Anthony.
The Knicks' squad at the time wasn't yet a title contender, but Walsh may well have been able to bolster the squad in the offseason without giving away so much talent if he had been given the opportunity.
With Walsh and D'Antoni staying in place for a little longer, the Knicks could have built a deep roster that was suited to their coaches' preferred style of play—much like the one that has been built over in Denver.
Since acquiring Melo, the most significant thing we've seen on the court so far has been the drop in form of Amar'e Stoudemire.
After looking like an MVP candidate in the early portion of that 2010-11 season, STAT has not looked the same since, and his chemistry issues with Anthony have been well-documented.
Stoudemire is now coming off the worst season of his career, which shockingly comes after what was his best season. This can mostly be blamed on the acquisition of Anthony.
Obviously, Stoudemire's injuries have contributed somewhat to his downfall, but more so it's been his inability to mesh with Melo.
D'Antoni, Walsh and Stoudemire were the men most responsible for the Knicks' early success in 2010-11, but the acquisition of Melo has forced two of them to leave, with the third having his influence on the team greatly diminished.
Had the three stayed in their roles, things could be greatly different for the Knicks here a year-and-a-half on. It's not hard to see that the Knicks would at the very least be better than the seventh seed in the Eastern Conference.
That said, it's unfair to paint the trade in a completely negative light.
Success in the modern-day NBA appears to come down to having multiple superstars rather than simply having depth. Besides the Dallas Mavericks, the last few world champions have shown just that.
And though the post-Melo trade Knicks have not yet lived up to expectations, they've yet to have a full season and training camp together to work things out. The 2012-13 campaign could be their chance to finally get it together.
If they can stay healthy, today's Knicks may end up proving Dolan right after all, even if their play so far has shown otherwise.
As a playoff team with a talented roster, things are not as bad for the Knicks as people like to make out. The trade could yet pay dividends.
The Knicks may well have had success had they not traded for Melo, but it remains to be seen just how successful they'll be with Melo in place.
Entering the first full season of the Carmelo Anthony era, it shouldn't be too long before we find out.
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